Comedian Melanie Bracewell's first job was as a producer on Radio Hauraki's Matt and Jerry show. She performs her Billy T Award-winning show Melodrama at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.
1 Growing up in Beach Haven on Auckland's North Shore, were you always funny?
I come from a big family — I'm the youngest of 6 — and we're always joking so I thought everyone was funny. At high school I started a blog on tumblr called meladoodle. I became what they call a 'humour blogger' and ended up with about 90,000 followers. It was crazy and terrifying; tumblr's a fierce social justice site with a hugely diverse population, so if you say something wrong, someone will tell you.
2 How did you learn to deal with negative feedback?
I've been on the internet for a long time; before tumblr it was neopets, a website that kids can chat on, so you learn over time. Usually I can laugh off the negative comments. I'll reply 'Oh Dad, stop messaging me' but if you're having a bad day it's harder. Sometimes I'll reply, 'Hey that's not very nice' and they'll be like, 'Oh I didn't think you'd respond'.
3 Was it hard to shift from writing funny things on social media to saying them out loud on stage?
For my first stand-up gig at The Classic, I literally took jokes from my blog and rephrased them as stories. It went really well and I felt invincible. But then I performed the exact same jokes at a corporate gig and it went very poorly. It was all these old business guys who just wanted an end-of-year drink. I wanted to leave but the gig came with a free meal and I was a uni student so I was sitting there crying into my steak, going 'This is so good. I'm just going to smash this back.'
4 Do comedians have a higher threshold for failure than most?
Yeah, failure is almost the only way to get better. Comedians who only perform to their own audience don't grow. I've failed a lot. There are times when you think about quitting but it's like you've got to a certain level on a video game. You keep dying over and over again but you've come so far, you want to finish. The difference with comedy is there is no finish.
5 How did you get your first job producing Radio Hauraki's Matt and Jerry show?
I won a competition where I got to do a segment on 7 Days. Alex Behan saw me and asked if I'd like to do voluntary work on his show so I spent eight months learning how to produce. As soon as a job popped up on Breakfast they gave it to me. My first day they told me to find someone from Making a Murderer to interview. It was the biggest show in the world at the time. I found the guy who made the theme tune.
6 What was it like being the only girl working on the show?
It was a very laddish environment. I was appointed the "women's affairs conciliator". But it was always a lot of fun — lots of parties. After last year's music awards, my alarm didn't go off and I was an hour and a half late for work. When I got in, Jeremy had only just arrived and had this massive bruise on his head. If you're arriving at work late you don't want to just waltz in like it's no big deal, so he'd run into the studio, tripped and nailed his head on the door handle. This year the opposite happened and Matt spent the first hour phoning in the show.
7 Do we need more women in comedy?
It would be great to have line-ups that are 50 per cent women. Some people have this end-of-history illusion that we're all done now, but there are still improvements to be made. From an audience perspective, I don't understand how a line-up of 10 white guys talking about their experiences with porn would be interesting? Surely they'd like to see different perspectives.
8 Was it encouraging to win last year's Billy T Award?
Yes. You get nominated six months before being judged at the Comedy Festival so it's a lot of pressure. A lot of work goes into it, a lot of panic, a lot of, 'Why do I do this to myself?' Luckily the New Zealand comedy scene's quite collaborative so we'll get together for writing sessions and work on each other's jokes.
9 Is joke writing something you get better at with practice?
Definitely, it's like working a muscle. Now I'm working on The Project where I write jokes every day, I'm shredding. The show has four writers; we write the jokes for the hosts because they're often out filming. Corbett gets the best jokes; we give the leftovers to the others. We also write the teasers and that one random question in every interview. When Corbett's away we take turns filling in. I've hosted three times so far. I don't know if I'm any good but it's really fun.
10 Do you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
No, that's Hayley Sproull. We often get confused because we look alike and both do comedy. It's a weird coincidence because when she wrote about having PCOS for The Spinoff, I'd just had an ovarian cyst removed. I saw her photo and thought they'd done an article on me. She has a syndrome where you get lots of cysts. I just had a big old one that apparently if you leave it too long it can grow hair and teeth. Dad joked that I'd eaten my twin in the womb. My sister had a cyst removed from her face around the same time, so he called us 'cyst-ers'. My cyst was 6cm. They didn't let me keep it. They did show me some photos while I was eating a poached egg. I was like, 'Maybe just email them to me'.
11 You're a basketballer. Do you follow the NBA?
I'm a big NBA fan now, but growing up I mainly followed local basketball. My friend's mum worked at the North Shore Events Centre so we'd go every week. I was a massive fan of the Harbour Heat and then The Breakers. I've played basketball since I was 9. I still play two mornings a week with a group of friends. There's no ref and no proper scoring — it's just whoever turns up. I'm the only girl but it's good vibes.
12 Is Steven Adams your hero?
I love Steven Adams. I met him once. Well, 'met' is a strong word. I was at the Real Housewives of Auckland launch; there was a lot of free wine. One of the housewives told me she saw Steven Adams next door so I went to find him. I thought he'd be in a bar but he was actually at a proper seated dinner so I walked up and said, 'Hey you play basketball' and he said, 'Yes' and I was like, 'I also play basketball' and he said, 'Oh yeah cool' and I was just like, 'Anyway — great to meet you' and left. My heart was beating so hard. It was a very important moment in my life.
• Melanie Bracewell's show Melodrama is at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, on February 27, 8.30pm www.hgaf.co.nz